It is important to distinguish between the agents of deforestation and its causes. The "agents" are those individuals, corporations, government agencies, or development projects that clear the forests as opposed to the forces that motivate them. There are four aspects of the causes of deforestation:
1. Predisposing conditions:
These conditions create an environment where deforestation can occur. They are conditions created by society, at times intentionally and at times the consequence of human activities. They are some of the systemic, most difficult issues that frustrate human progress and sustainable development. Another predisposing condition of deforestation is poverty, particularly in rural areas. Although poverty is not a "cause" of deforestation, it is a condition of life that the majority of people in this world must endure. While greed and power can be the motivations of some groups in society to deforest, survival and the desire to escape from poverty also drives most people towards deforestation^
2. Direct causes:
These are the most visible, easily identified and readily associated with the agents of deforestation. They are driven by the other less visible, socioeconomic forces — the indirect causes. The direct causes include Commercial Agriculture, Cattle Ranching/Livestock Grazing and Mining and Petroleum Exploration.
3. Indirect causes:
These include Fiscal and Development Policies, Land Access, Land Tenure and Market Pressures. Often mentioned as causes of deforestation are the demand for forest products and the demand for other goods (mostly food) that are produced on deforested lands (clearly, without any demand there would be no economic reason for cutting down the trees), undervaluation of natural forests, forest exploitation and plantation development in the loss of natural forests.
4. Social factors:
Faced with political decisions about urban migration, food production, reform, employment generation, national security, economic structural adjustment, and all the other issues that demand their attention; unfortunately, many governments have opted to ignore deforestation.
However, it must be remembered that firewood collection and logging are not direct causes of deforestation. These do produce a change in the composition of the natural forest and can increase the risk of a subsequent transition in favor of other land uses. In some circumstances, deforestation can result when harvesting occurs under very sensitive environmental conditions or when it is very intense over a long period. In the case of tree plantations, replacing the natural forest with plantations results in a loss of natural forest area but it does not cause deforestation because there has been no permanent change in land use.
One of the lessons of the last 30 years in trying to contain deforestation is that the people who are meant to benefit from the forests must be full partners in the process of